Over the fall and winter months, ESPN High School will be spotlighting players that stood out over the summer baseball seasons, giving you an in-depth look at some of the best prospects of 2011 and beyond.
If pressed to name the hotspots of high school baseball talent, the Pacific Northwest is generally not one of the first places that come to mind. That’s an honor generally reserved for the likes of Southern California, Texas, and Florida, with Georgia and the Mid-Atlantic not, too, far behind. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why, either; these are places with long-standing traditions, and warm weather throughout the year, something you just won’t get in the upper-left portion of the country.
There’s a long way to go before it ever catches up to those areas, but there’s been a significant uptick lately in the great Northwest. Oregon has seen the Ducks and Beavers become baseball powers, and the state of Washington has seen four players taken in the first-round (Josh Sale, Drew Vettleson, Jeff Ames, and Blake Snell) over the past two years.
The Beaver State hasn’t put out the kind of talent its neighbor to the north has, but they may have the most talented prep player this year in Westview (Portland, Ore.) product Carson Kelly.
“He’d be at the top for me, absolutely” a coach in the Mountain West Conference told ESPNHS when asked that very question. “That’s not meant as a slight to guys like (Clint) Coulter or anyone else, we just think that there’s more upside in his arm and his bat as much as anyone up there. He’s impressive.”
Kelly was so impressive this year that he was one of the few selected to participate for Team USA, the Under-Armour All-American Game – where he was also selected to participate in the home-run derby prior to the game -- and the Area Code Games.
“We saw a lot of him this summer” an AL-scout said. “Each time we saw him we were impressed with the bat speed and swing mechanics, and the ball just seems to jump off the barrel. We think he can be a plus-fielder at third base as well, he’s certainly got the arm and lateral quickness to play there”
It’s not just with the bat or in the field that Kelly has excited scouts, either. “He’s a pretty exciting two-way player” an NL-Crosschecker told ESPNHS. “We’ve had him at 88-92, with a 74-77 mph curveball, pitches inside well and he gets people out.”
The 17-year old also features a changeup that scouts say has good sink, though the mechanics do need to be polished.
Following his senior year, Kelly will have the chance to show off his hitting and pitching prowess in Eugene, as he’s committed to Oregon. Long-term though, most believe Kelly’s future is at the hot-corner. “There’s pro potential at both, but a guy with a 60 arm who has power to all parts of the field is better suited for the field than the mound” a Pac-12 coach opined. “If the pop doesn’t develop, maybe you see him on the rubber as a fallback. I wouldn’t bet on that, though.”
In the box or on the mound, the Ducks have themselves one talented player come 2013.